Originally published in East Montgomery Observer
November 13, 2007
By JONATHAN YARDLEY
With his twin brother on his mind, Splendora senior Joe Connell played with twice the heart in helping Splendora to a 22-15 win over Coldspring and a second consecutive District 22-3A title last Friday at Wildcat Stadium.
Before the game, Joe Connell shared an emotional pregame Senior Night ceremony with his parents and twin brother, Josh, who is unable to play after an offseason accident.
On his second carry of the game, Joe Connell had the wind knocked out of him, and he did not return until midway through the second quarter.
But when crunch time arrived in the fourth quarter, Joe Connell's inspiration was close at hand.
"I was thinking somebody's coming behind me and pushing me," Joe Connell said of his hard-nosed running. "That's the way my brother used to run the ball. My brother, I did that for him."
Splendora trailed 15-14 with 9:06 remaining, but Joe Connell helped the Wildcats bash downfield on a nine-play journey to re-take the lead. Joe Connell carried on five of the nine plays, including a 16-yard touchdown run on which he broke two tackles to score with 4:27 left.
When Splendora went for two to restore a one-touchdown lead, Joe Connell was the only place to go, and he powered his way across the goal line with help from his teammates.
"I couldn't have done it without [Josh Ables] lead blocking," Joe Connell said. "The tackles, [Mike] Whelihan and [Josh] Penton, played their butts off."
Four minutes later, with Coldspring driving in an attempt to tie the game or go ahead, Joe Connell was in the game at linebacker and in the right place at the right time to scoop up a fumble and seal the victory.
Afterward, as he reflected on the team's comeback from an early 7-0 deficit, Joe Connell could have been reflecting on his, and the team's, entire season.
"We knew we had to make an adjustment and come back," he said. "Heart brought us through that game."